Opuni Trial: 'COCOBOD never suffered any financial loss’ - Witness

1.21496126 Dr Stephen Opuni

Wed, 8 Jun 2022 Source: GNA

Mr Daniel Ohene Agyekum, the fourth defence witness in the trial involving Dr. Stephen Opuni and two others, says COCOBOD never suffered any financial loss as a result of the purchase of lithovit liquid fertilizer.

He said, “I will not consider the purchasing of lithovit liquid fertilizer as a loss to the State.”

Mr Agyekum, who is the former Board Chairman of COCOBOD, in his evidence in chief, led by Mr Samuel Codjoe, Lawyer for Dr Opuni, said he was dragged to EOCO himself in 2017 for causing financial loss to the state.

Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the State, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GHS300,000.00 self-recognizance bail each.

Mr Agyekum said having been charged for causing financial loss to the state and against his protestation as a Board chairman, he did not authorise payment, nor did he sign Cheques at COCOBOD and yet he was treated by EOCO as a common criminal.

The former Board Chairman, who is a retired Diplomat, said he was on the Board of directors of the Board from January 2014 to January 2017.

He said he could state that all agrochemicals, including lithovit liquid fertiliser went through the right procurement procedure before purchase was done.

He said he was also the Chairman of the Entity Tender Committee (ETC) until the law was amended to make the Chief Executive the Chairman.

The witness said that even though the law was amended, he still attended all ETC meetings.

“During my tenure as Board Chairman, all agrochemicals, including fertilizers which were purchased went through proper procedures and processes,” he added.

He said the practice existed before his appointment to the Board of COCOBOD.

He said all chemicals, including fertilizers bought from Agricult Ghana, limited went through all the processes.

“Also, as a Board Chairman, all fertilizers, including lithovit fertilizer went through the proper procedures,” he said.

He said as a Board, they were guided by technical experts in specific fields, and they also followed the right procedures.

The witness said lithovit was a liquid fertilizer and “I also know COCOBOD purchased lithovit including(among) sidalco and granular fertilizer."

Mr Agyekum told the Court that letters from COCOBOD to the Public Procurement Authority, seeking approval for sole-sourcing of fertilizers were signed by Dr Opuni but not written by him.

He said it was not Dr Opuni, who granted contracts but rather the management of the COCOBOD awarded contracts.

He said after going through all the processes, they would seek expert advice before all chemicals were bought under his tenure.

The witness said he was also aware that all procurement letters were written by the Procurement Unit.

The witness statement was tendered and adopted by the Court.

Mr Nutifafa Nutsukpui, Counsel for Seidu Agongo, in cross-examination, asked the witness whether he would remember some Board members and the witness said he could only recollect a few names, looking at my age.

Tell the Court how the Board made its decisions, the witness was asked, and he said "when the Board meets, most of the decisions were arrived at after a thorough discussion on the issues that were presented to them per the agenda."

He said decisions taken at the meeting were based on consensus.

Asked whether it was possible during his tenure for an individual Board member to make any decision on their behalf, the witness answered in the negative.

He said each member was given the opportunity to make his or her views known.

“Were the budget and procurement plan approved in a similar decision manner,” the Counsel asked, and the witness said the plan and budget would be discussed by all members before any decision was made.

He said if there was any way for clarification on the plan, the experts were invited.

The Counsel asked the witness that as far as he was aware, in approving the budget or procurement plan, had there been any influence by Mr Agongo and his Agricult Company? But the witness disagreed.

He said they could not have influenced any of the decisions because they do not attend their meetings.

Mr Nutsukpui asked the witness that during his tenure as the Board Chairman, were there any complaints of any problem with any agrochemical COCOBOD purchased, the witness said he never received any complaints from any cocoa farmer or farming group.

He said during his tenure and based on his personal experience it was his determination that the policies, programmes, and activities of the Board should be apt to support the Cocoa farming industry.

He said his reaction to the assertion that lithovit was so ineffective and farmers drank the fertilizer on their farms was that Dr Adu Ampomah, who claimed the farmers complained to him, did not know what he was talking about.

The witness said if any farmer drank the fertilizer would die.

Mr Agyekum said "maybe," Dr Ampomah might not be telling the truth.

The case has been adjourned to Friday, June 10, 2022.

Source: GNA
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